A quick read over the minutes of the 2000 Measure A Project Advisory Committee meeting on 5/11 reveals a sad future for VTA. The 2000 Measure A is slowly losing its purpose of transporting people and becoming just a list of pork barrel projects for the consultants and the construction industry.
Alum Rock-Santa Clara light rail - VTA is "exploring a modified version of the light rail alternative, which would operate on the eastern side of the corridor on Alum Rock Avenue between Five Wounds Church (Near U.S. 101) and Capitol Avenue/Capitol Expressway with Eastridge as the final destination."
If this alternatives goes through, it would render this light rail project useless for transportation. Currently, two bus routes (64 and 522) operate the entire length of Alum Rock-Santa Clara corridor between Capitol Avenue and Downtown San Jose. This alternative would make transit inferior by either duplicating light rail service with existing bus service, or force passengers to transfer from light rail to bus (or BART) at Five Wounds Church on their way to Downtown San Jose.
The logic for advocating a shortened light rail is clear: The politicians want light rail on the Alum Rock-Santa Clara corridor, but the project is facing diffculty given the restricted street width and the duplication with the BART subway between the Five Wounds Church and Downtown San Jose. VTA and the politicians may want East Valley passengers to transfer from light rail to BART to get to downtown, but with less than two miles from downtown, this idea (along with BART itself) only wastes tax money and creates inconvenience.
San Jose Airport People Mover - VTA is proposing a three-station people-mover system connecting the Santa Clara Caltrain station (proposed BART station), the airport, and the Light Rail station on 1st Street). VTA plans to build it under the airport's runway and would use automated vehicles operating every 3 minutes.
While on the surface it seems like a good idea and it has support from the Airport commission, the details later revealed demostrate the nonviability of the project.
The Airport and VTA are considering a single station at the airport for the people mover. The people mover will not connect the terminals, and it will not connect with the long term parking lots as well as the rental car center.
The 2000 Measure A would only fund the portion between the Santa Clara Caltrain station and the airport. The connection between the airport and the light rail would be funded by the City of San Jose, but the city has yet to commit any funds.
VTA assumes only the capital cost of the people mover project. VTA General Manager Michael Burns stated that "from VTA’s perspective that VTA would not have responsibility for the operations or maintenance costs."
As it is, the proposed airport people mover is an independent subway system from two transit stations with an airport station in between. It will be funded by all airport users and will have no purpose other than getting transit riders to the airport.
While the airport people mover may create jobs for the engineers and planners, this project is simply not viable. The projected ridership (11,500 per day according to VTA) is insufficient to support a rail system. Also, without it to serve other airport facilities like long-term parking and rental car center, the airport would not be able to achieve cost effieciencies (by not having to run buses to these locations) and instead create a huge financial drain. In order to build and operate this, the airport would have to ask the struggling airlines and their passengers to pay for a service that most users would not use.
While these projects would be a windfall for the engineering consultants and the construction industry, the losers will be the everyday transit riders.